Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ready My Steed!

Tree frog riding a Rhino Beetle. Not sure if its real or staged, but it does give you some ideas for unusual mounts, does it not?  

Garthim from the Dark Crystal. These guys make all other henchmen look like wussies!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DIE Alone: Howling Hill Part 1

The hill was dotted with strange stone mounds. They were clearly gravemarkers, but of a stone not native to this area, and so worn down by the centuries that their markings were faded beyond any recognition, though they seemed alien and painful to the eye. Near the top of the hill, Thakko came across the body of a dead man, a trail of fresh blood still snaking away between the mounds. A check revealed little and he had little of worth beyond a placebo potion and a few lucre coins.

Thakko followed the blood trail to the mouth of a tomb, its sealing stone shoved aside and lying broken on its side. Inside it smelt of stale air and dust, but Thakko unsheathed his mighty axe and went inside.

The inside was indeed a tomb, with bones and rags scattered everywhere. Curiously, there were many items left around, though much of it of little of value. After accidentally disturbing a pair of Large Spiders, Thakko braved a long hallway riddled with dart traps. The traps were old and ineffectual and only a single dart glanced harmlessly off his armour. At the end of the hallway, he came across a man near death. He fed the man a placebo potion and he soon became more coherent, though still badly wounded. 

This adventure was based on The Howler, by Random Order Creations, which I picked up primary because I liked the artwork and it was cheap. Its a standard, clear the dungeon and with a monster boss at the end, and as I mentioned the artwork is really fun. Unfortunately, I found the adventure itself a little uneven. Take the dart corridor for example. There is a chance every few feet of triggering a trap. Which all pretty basic, except the adventure never tells you how long the corridor actually is, so do you have to make four rolls, or ten? The Howler itself, a warped creature that eats magic and appears undead. Its actually a pretty good boss, unfortunately, the problem is that the Howler eats the magic from magic items, but its a low level adventure, so the hero might not even HAVE a magic object for the Howler to drain attack. As my hero was neither a cleric nor did he have any magic items, it made for kind of a boring fight.

That being said, stack the Howler up against a low level party that has had a few adventures under their belts, a few trinkets in their arsenal and thinks they know what they're doing and the Howler would make a pretty good adventure. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cave Clowns

You ever wanted to justify having scary clowns, but you're running a 'serious game'? Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has the answer!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Wizard's Ring

Night had fallen on the Nether Regions and the party had gathered in the common room of the The Belle End tavern. No sooner had the wench brought the first round that the black robed wizard seated himself at the head of the table. 
     "Seat's taken." snarled Thakko the Barbarian.
     "But I brought it from another table." protested the wizard.
     "Put it back before someone gets hurt." said Thakko.  
     "I am here on business." 
     "Oh, in that case." said Thakko. "Elvish, I think he's looking for something a little more up yer alley." 
     "I have not had to resort to such things since my apprentice days." Zhoosh Uros the Ranger said as he sipped his wine.
     "Stuff it, the both of you." Lumbar the Dwarf grumbled.  "What's the job, spellslinger?"
The wizard cleared his throat. "Well, I have a castle that needs exploring, and I hear that you lot are the best ... currently breathing that is."
Thakko slammed his stein on the table. "That's right, spellhead. Ever since Orkin's group lost it in the Caverns of Carnivorous Cockroaches, we've been number one around here."     
     "Which brings me to you." the wizard continued. "Interested?"
     "Depends. We haven't heard the job yet." said Lumbar.
Before he could answer, Thakko broke in. "There ain't a ruin, temple, dark wood or barber shop between here and Cleopolis that we haven't looted. Teleporting spells make me barf and we just did two weeks hard riding to get here from our last job. I ain't going no-where until my saddle sores are gone, and I work up a few more on the local working girls."
     "No spells and you will not have to travel at all, barbarian." promised the wizard. "But the job is available for a very limited time, and I will require your immediate assent."
    "He means, now or never, you deviant imbecile." said Uros.
Thakko scoffed. "Sure, pal. If you can show me a castle to loot right now then I'm in!"
     "It pains me to say it, but I am curious enough to concur with the deviant imbecile." said Uros.
The wizard looked to the dwarf and received a shrug in reply. "Let's see what you got."
With a smile that would worry all the devils in hell, the wizard laid his hand on the table. "Excellent. Then I will need you all to gaze deeply upon my ring ...."  
Original Link. You can actually buy this!
Haven't been posting much because I'm working two jobs. Too tired to move.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Weight of Water: Part 1

In 2004 Morrigan Publishing put out a call for abstracts for new Talislanta books. I sent in as many as I could think of which, if I remember, consisted of two adventure ides and two sourcebook outlines; one for a Northern Regions and another for the Kang Empire. I was beaten to the Northern Regions (which turned out to be a break, because I love this book) and the Eastern Empire book never got beyond the note stage, but the two adventure ideas were accepted. A month later I was able to submit the first adventure; an low-level romp called The Weight of Water. In retrospect, it is railroady as hell, but I am still quite proud of it and it was hands down the funnest writing I've ever done. I even have have a file full of ideas for a sequel called 'The Glimmer of Glass' (set in and above the Sea of Glass) which I may revisit one day.

I also completed and submitted the second book, but it was never properly published as Morrigan Press soon folded (not unusual for small press, sadly). I'm still quite proud of the second book, which was a cross between an adventure and a sourcebook for the Thaecian Isle chain called Festival of the Bizarre, Inspired by some readings I had done some reading on game design and inspired by the Grand Theft Auto series of all things, I tried t make the Festival of the Bizarre a sandbox with as many adventure ideas as I could think of scrammed throughout the text. Its available through my site and (was available? link is there but it seem to be dead) on the official Talislanta page. I'll revisit FotB at a later date, but a quick skim through unfortunately reminded me that, oh boy did I ever rush that ending! 

Anyway, the real purpose of this post was to celebrate the artwork that accompanied The Weight of Water. I cannot begin to describe the sensation when I first saw the works done by Adam Black, who was nice enough to send them to me soon after he'd finished them. That he had perfectly encapsulated what I was trying to convey still blows me away. And then the book came out with an honest to zod P.D.Breeding Black cover! Copies of many of these still hang in my 'study' (read as: clutter room). 

Cover, by artist, PD Breeding Black
This pic shows Sunbeam, the Muse Queen of Astar in her royal procession into the city of Cymril. It will be her unfortunate assassination that is the inciting incident of the adventure.  

Rajan Death Priest, by Adam Black
Book inlay. This suitably creepy picture hints at who the true villains of the adventure will be. 

Guard Duty, by Adam Black
The players are pestered by Whisps while working as guards for the Procession of Kings.

Assassin, by Adam Black
The ultimate fate of poor Queen Sunbeam.

A Promise of Escape by Adam Black
I particularly like this image as it perfectly captured what I tried to describe in the text. A mysterious stranger offering the captured PCs a chance to escape.

Bartender, by Adam Black
Another favourite. A simple piece describing a mobile tavern-cart run by Pharesian Renegades deep in the Cyrmil Woods. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I had a whole post ready to go, but I didn't feel like talking about games today. The attack in Paris was an attack on writers and artists. It was an attack on ideas and as such it affects every creative community out there, including the OSR and roleplayers in general. It doesn't matter if you think that the articles and illustrations in the Charlie Hebdo magazine might have gone too far. What matters is that those people died because they saw that a fanatic cult* that worships death and destruction should not be exempt from satyr and ridicule. 

*I refuse to call it a religion or Islam out of respect for the millions of Muslims who are just as horrified at these barbarians are trying to doing in their name.

Monday, January 5, 2015 is back in business!

Peaceful Mandalan
Turns out it was a simple issue, easily rectified.

I really must preach the book of Talislanta more often. I forget how much I have loved this game over the years. Simple rules (one chart handles all actions), 100+ Playable Archetypes with dozens of original races (No ELVES!) set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world directly inspired by Jack Vance's Dying Earth. It completely blew my mind as a teenager and was my gateway into the weird and gothic realms of Moorcock, Howard, Leiber, Ashton Smith, Burroughs, Wolfe and more!

The author and creator of the game, Stephan Michael Sechi has graciously allowed all of the works (almost all, a few books have not been scanned yet) to be turned into free PDFs. So, if you're a fan of esoteric rpgs, or are looking for something new to spice up your game, then you owe it to yourself to check these out.

And I'm not saying this just because I was lucky enough to write one of the official adventures.
Wild Jaka

NOTE: I have literally only just discovered this gallery. It contains dozens of images that were only in the French Edition. They illustrate the different archetypes and give an incredible example of the diversity of playable races in the game.
Noble Gryph
Below is a quick gallery. All works are copyright of their original artists. One pic NSFW.
A Danuvian Virago gets the drop on an Aamanian Knight. by Adam Black
Kang Warrior on his Strider. by, Nathan Rosario
Dhuna Witch. by, Nathan Rosario
 Thrall Huntress by, Nathan Rosario
A night in Zandir. From the French edition, of course.

A Simpler Time: 1983 TSR Catalogue

From: 2 Warps to Neptune
Lots more here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Clark Aston Smith

The library where I work has a sizable pulp collection that I am eagerly devouring. Recently I have come across a collection of the works of Clark Aston Smith, a lesser known predecessor /contemporary of Howard and Lovecraft. I was aware of him before, but I had never sat down and read any of his works at length. Gross, gothic, strange, mythic and sexual, I must confess that I am now utterly hooked. Some of the story doesn't always hang together, but his imagery is spellbinding and a clear model for later writers like Moorcock,Leiber and Vance.

Luckily, much of his work has entered the public domain, so it it relatively easy to track down more of his work.
The Flower Woman

Speaking as a gamer, I cannot understand why no one has ever run an adventure based on The Maze of Maal Dweb is a cosmic shame. It makes the Tomb of Horrors look like a walk to the candy store.

A link to more Ashton Smith inspired work.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Shan Ya, The Madness Known as Talislanta

In 2013, some Talislanta fans attempted to jumpstart a fanzine that unfortunately, like most efforts of this type, never made it past first issue. What they did create was impressive and as a new year's present, they have released the finished issue. I was going to link to the official site, but it seems to be down. 
An Ahazu warrior caught in the grips of Shan Ya, the battle madness. A popular player class!